Council’s care for vulnerable youngsters branded “inadequate”

VULNERABLE children remain at risk in Essex because of inadequate care being provided by the county council, it has emerged.

A report by Ofsted inspectors into the services for safeguarding of youngsters has concluded provision is still “inadequate”.

The Government stepped in last December after much needed improvements to children’s services in Essex were judged to be happening too slowly.

Despite the latest rating of inadequacy, council bosses said they “welcomed” the report which comes after an inspection, carried out in June and early July,

Inspectors acknowledged there have been significant improvements made by the local authority to its safeguarding services.

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However, the report states: “Weaknesses still remain in the quality of assessment and planning within its child protection and child in need services.

“This makes the effectiveness of services in taking reasonable steps to ensure that children and young people are safe inadequate overall.”

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The report also concludes the quality of “safeguarding provision” is still inadequate despite some improvements since a review in 2008.

“Recent improvements to processes have ensured that significant child protection concerns are responded to immediately and that all assessments are allocated to qualified social workers,” it states.

However, the quality of the work was said to be “variable” with cases referred back for follow-up action because of the “poor quality of assessment and planning, and lack of identification of risk”.

During the inspection eight cases of initial assessment were returned for review for similar reasons.

The report concluded: “These cases show that some children, including those on the edge of care, remain at risk.”

Sarah Candy, in charge of children’s services at the council, said: “We have never had any doubt about the huge task in front of us, and are under no illusion that we still have some way to go on our improvement journey but the steps we have made are significant and promising.

“Change cannot be achieved overnight but we are pleased that Ofsted have recognised the improvements we have made since November, the rapid pace in which we have implemented changes and that what we are doing is working.

“We are now working towards improving the quality of our social work practice and it is clear that the Ofsted report supports this direction of travel.

“Feedback from the report said that children in our care felt safe, significant child protection concerns are responded to immediately, we provide a good range of specialist mental health and substance misuse services and that we can demonstrate significant progress has been made.

“Inspectors told us that what we are doing is having an impact and we will continue to press on with improving our services at the same pace. We have made dramatic progress over the past six months and we will not rest until we have put in place services we can be proud of.”

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